NFL Analysis: How Does Collie Being Out Impact Colts, Manning?

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The Indy Star ran some numbers this morning about how the Indy offense has performed with and without Austin Collie.

There's some good stuff in there, but I wanted to augment it with some of my own.  The problem when addressing Collie's impact on the offense is that he first suffered a hand injury in the week six win over the Redskins.  That means that all at once, Indy didn't just lose Collie, but Clark and Addai as well. Therefore, it's impossible to tease out exactly how much each guy meant to the offense.  If the NFL was a lab, we would have sat each player for five games one at a time.  That would have been useful for helping us get better data.  Damn you, NFL, for your 'real world scenarios' and imperfect testing conditions!

Here's what we can see:

  First Downs/game PPG TO/G RYPG Rushes/Game PYPG Passes/Game
23.3 25.5 1.3 94.8 25.7 319.9 42.3
7-14 21.9 24.6 1.8 77.8 21.9 292.6 44.3

Obviously, that's a nice drop-off since Collie, Clark and Addai went down. It's impossible, however, to trace that decline to just one player. It's also interesting to note that the Indy offense lost less than one point a game despite lose three major weapons.  We do see a decline in efficiency and a rise in turnovers, however.

With Collie, we have additional data as well.  He played just under a half of three different games since the initial week seek hand injury.  Now we can see how the Indy offense performed against the Eagles, Pats, and Jags with and without him.  In the first two games, Collie got hurt in the middle of a scoring drive.  I've credited both scores as 'with Collie' points, even though he had left the games by the time Indy hit the endzone.  I'm also treating it as if he played equal time in the New England and Philly games, even though there was time left in the half in both games, and Indy scored points to close out both halves.  Bear in mind, then, that the sample sizes aren't quite equal.

PH, NE, Jax First Downs Points TO Rush Yards Rush Att YPC Pass Yards Pass Att YPA
With Collie 23 35 2 122 23 5.3 332 51 6.5
Without Collie 51 44 3 166 40 4.15 587 85 6.9

That's interesting data, but we have to remember that a lot of the 'without Collie' production came against the Patriots. Indy was losing big and came back against a weak defense playing soft.  Against the Eagles they played with a slim lead and struggled in the third quarter. Against the Jags, they had a big lead and played very conservative.

This is a small sample size and it is not proof the Colts don't need Collie, so don't hear me to be saying so.  What it does mean is that the issue isn't as cut and dried as "Indy was good for a half against the Jags and then was bad for a half".  The other two games the numbers were different.  

The numbers in the Star piece are accurate but a bit misleading. If someone just looked at the chart, they'd see doom, but Chappell did a nice job pointing it out in the article:

"His safety blankets are inside," Christensen said. "And three of them have been out for most of the season: Joseph, Dallas and Austin."Everyone has a safety blanket, and that's what those guys are for Peyton. They're the ones he loves to go to. He loves what they can do inside. We get doubled outside and he just knows he can go to those guys inside. He knows where they're going to be."

The dip in the offense was about losing three players not one.

I don't know if the Colts can regain a dynamic edge to the offense without Collie.  I'd like to think that a backfield of Addai and Brown would be a lot better than Brown and Rhodes/James.  All I can say is the numbers show it's too soon to panic.  Are they better with him than without him?  I'm obviously going to say yes to that, but there is reason to think they can still be effective in his absence.

Despite losing three elite performers, Indy has lost just a point of offense a game. If the Colts fail to advance in the coming weeks, my guess is that it will be because the defense struggles more than the offense.